Toyobo Co. of Japan and Toyobo U.S.A., its American subsidiary, (collectively, Toyobo), agreed to pay $66 million to resolve claims under the False Claims Act that they sold defective Zylon fiber used in bullet proof vests the United States purchased for law enforcement agencies. The settlement is part of a larger federal investigation of the body armor industry’s use of Zylon in body armor. The Department of Justice previously recovered more than $66 million from 16 entities involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of Zylon vests. The settlement brings the Division’s overall recoveries to over $132 million.
The settlement resolves allegations that between at least 2001 and 2005, Toyobo, the sole manufacturer of Zylon fiber, knew that Zylon degraded quickly in normal heat and humidity, and that this degradation rendered bullet proof vests containing Zylon unfit for use. The United States further alleged that Toyobo nonetheless actively marketed Zylon fiber for bullet proof vests, published misleading degradation data that understated the degradation problem, and started a public relations campaign designed to influence other body armor manufacturers to keep selling Zylon-containing vests.
“This settlement sends a strong message to suppliers of products to the federal government that they must be truthful in their claims, particularly with regard to health and safety,” said Carol Fortine Ochoa, Inspector General of the General Services Administration.”
The settlement resolves allegations filed in two lawsuits, one brought by the United States and the other filed by Aaron Westrick, a former Second Chance employee. Westrick’s lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The law allows private citizens, known as relators, to bring a lawsuit on the government’s behalf, rewarding them with a significant portion of the government’s recovery (between 15% and 30%). Dr. Westrick will receive $5,775,000 for his efforts.
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